ESSEX County, NJ – Newark. Chicago. Boston. Philadelphia. And now, Essex County. These are some of the local governments that have joined the pressure to cancel student debt in the United States
Earlier this week, the Essex County Board of Commissioners adopted a symbolic resolution calling on the federal government to “cancel all student loan debt”. The resolution – introduced by Chief Commissioner Wayne Richardson – also urged the US government to begin providing higher education as a public good.
According to county commissioners, it’s a local issue as well as a national issue.
“Student loan debt is a major factor driving families further into poverty, and further exacerbating the poverty rate in Essex County and across the country,” the commissioners emphasized in a joint statement.
Nicole Lancaster, an early childhood education teacher in Newark and a member of NJ Communities United, is one of many residents who have had difficulty paying off student loans.
“I struggled for years to pay for the basic needs of my family while managing student debt, and now student debt limits the educational opportunities for my children,” Lancaster said. “Without action now, our children will either give up school entirely, or they will be forced to descend into mountains of uncontrollable debt.”
The Board of Commissioners issued the following statement on the reason for the decision:
“According to the Federal Reserve, in the second quarter of 2021, Americans owed a staggering $1.73 trillion in student loans. Debt is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes, increased stress, depression, and premature death. Under the Higher Education Act of 1965 , the President of the United States and the Secretary of Education have the authority to cancel all federal student loan debt.Debt cancellation, and the cancellation of future debt as a result of loans issued to pursue higher education, represents a tremendous economic opportunity for Essex County to increase spending in our local community, support people’s upward mobility, and provide the stimulus that touches needed during an epidemic.”
Follow members of the board of directors:
New Jersey, specifically, is one of the country’s top five student debtor states with the average graduate taking out $34,387 in loans. New Jersey also has the third highest cost of attendance for full-time in-state students at $26,070 annually. Plus In addition, student loans have disproportionately affected communities of color.The cost of public universities in New Jersey is more than half the typical income of black and Hispanic/Latin families statewide.And even after accounting for financial assistance, the average price of attendance in New Jersey represents Four-year public schools account for about a third of household income for black and Hispanic/Latin families, compared to just 17 percent for white families in the state.Finally, 21 percent of student loan holders in black, color, and immigrant communities in Essex County are in default, compared to With only four percent of student loan holders in the county’s white communities, these numbers illustrate how the gher education system in New Jersey imposes an enormous financial burden on the most demanding students. financial need, and it reinforces the state’s racial wealth gap.”
Richardson praised the board’s support for the resolution, saying he believed it was “time” to call on the federal government to help communities that have traditionally been victims of predatory debt — including the burden of paying for college.
“Student debt is a national crisis that affects poor and working-class youth across this country, but disproportionately affects black and brown youth, who have more loans and are less likely to secure higher-paying jobs,” Richardson said.
“It is the duty of the federal government, one way or another, to ease this burden and give this generation of young people a chance to experience financial security,” he added.
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